Thursday, December 8, 2016

Train from Mantova to Rome

The new Trenitalia timetable dropped the direct Mantova–Roma Termini Frecciargento high speed train. Replacing it with slow regional options to Bologna or Milan to connect with the mainline Frecciarossa services.

Italo Treno, the private competitor on just a few lines offers better than Trenitalia from Bologna to Rome on the day in question, Friday 7 April.

So we will travel regionale  to Bologna, as at left (the price is for two). Then we will leave our bags safely at the station and briefly visit downtown Bologna before taking Italo to Rome. I bought two of the low cost first class (Prima) seats on advice of the Man in Seat 61, because there is
in each carriage, one set up with two seats facing each other across a table. Replacing arguments about window seat with arguments about riding forward or riding backwards. I think if you get the facing forward seat you have clear obligation to be the one to say 'look at that' and point, because at 250km/hr there's not much point in the person looking backwards saying 'look at that'.

This is the wonderful Man in Seat 61 [link] and this below is a screenshot of the two-to-a-table arrangement he recommends.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Referendum and Renzi context.

A referendum to amend the Italian constitution was lost on Sunday and the young prime minister Matteo Renzi who had, unlike all before him, gotten reform that far, resigned in the face of dinosaurs on all sides wanting him gone.

There is an excellent review of the situation here, by the Australian born, Italian citizen, head of the Brussels managing editor of MLex, James Panichi.

The Italian constitution vests significant powers in the president and President Mattarella is a very experienced politician who entered politics when his brother, at the time President of Sicily was assassinated by the mafia. Asked then to clean up the Sicilian branch of the Christian Democratic Party (DC). He was a member of the left in the DC, a concept difficult for those coming from countries where a catholic party would be expected to be deeply conservative. But the Democristiani were working in a different kind of world, where it as the confessional party contained within itself everyone from monarchists, fascists, conservatives to socialists and anarchists. The old DC regularly securing 40% of the vote to the Communist Party's 30%. Mattarella's faction favoured the 'apertura alla sinistra', opening to the left, and dealing with the communist party.  He seems held in warm regard. He has told Renzi to stay in his seat and sort out budget and electoral laws. Mattarella is not rolling over for the right and populists calling for an election straight away.


For non-Australians seeking the meaning of the "Renzi’s Keatingesque strut" this is a reference to the wonder-modernist spit-on-fools former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating, who also took on too many people at once, including a conservative electorate.


I think the Oxford Dictionary is wrong in saying this is a seventeenth century word, right in contrast to other sources in not limiting meaning to moral or religious grounds.

There are valuable texts, links here and here (and in the right column) for discussion of sumptuary laws in medieval and renaissance Italy.

These also make the interesting point that Italian cities and towns (Italy just a notion and a bit of geography back then) differed from other places in Europe; they saw the development of a middle class earlier than other parts of Europe. In referring to cities I note that at the time of the renaissance Florence had the same kind of population as my small town in Australia (30,000 - 40,000).

In that situation, sumptuary laws evolved to limit wicked expenditure on non-necessities and especially imported goods, trading cities having a rather Trumpian notion of trade, push it out, stop it coming in. Already a bit upper class people who would prefer to kick away the ladder than help others up to their elevated level. Dr Seuss wrote a book, King Looie Katz, and more about it.

There was church-tut about décolletage and more of course.

At the beginning of her honours thesis, Amanda Facelle writes:
Fashion and luxury were very important in Italian Renaissance society.
One’s appearance indicated more than whether one was simply attractive, it also
indicated one’s social standing. It was commonly believed that if one could acquire
the wealth and means through which to buy beautiful clothing and host bountiful
feasts, one could rise in status and prestige. Since most of the societies of
Renaissance Italy were relatively fluid, at least compared to other societies of the
time, the prospect of upward status mobility by the middle classes through
luxurious clothing and opulent public behavior was troubling to the upper echelons
of society. The more people infiltrated their ranks, the more their power would
become diluted. They would not have this, if they could help it. How was this
problem to be solved? The answer, in part, lay in the adoption of sumptuary laws.
There follows a very interesting account, worth the read but long and thesis-style, including of the velocity of new laws to catch up with new efforts to beat existing laws.

Facelle [p 24] writes
Numerous cities also imposed fines upon those who acted contrary to the established law. Often times, ladies would simply wear what they wanted and expect to pay the fines that they knew they could afford. This phenomenon was so prevalent that it was even given its own term by the Venetians,“pagare le pompe,” or “to pay the luxury fine.”
In those times, according to such reports, women wore impractical shoes to make clear that they did not have to work.

But now we read in the Medical Daily that academics claim that certain shoes are worn to manipulate men. They probably did not expect to have an accompanying photo of so much more than shoes. People are apparently paid for this research:
According to a recent study published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, women who wear high heels are found to be significantly sexier to men. ... The first three studies involved a woman confederate wearing black shoes with no heel, a 2-inch heel, or black pumps with a 3.5-inch heel asking men for help in various circumstances. The woman switched shoes after soliciting every 10 people.
I am distracted.

Nancy Lamb Roider writes:
The Italian noble class was a highly fluid group. Nobles in other parts of Europe were easily identified, as they lived off rents and other feudal incomes, and fought based on the requirements of knight service, rather than for money. The lifestyle of Italian nobles resembled that of their counterparts only in passing, for the Italians were frequently only glorified merchants [or successful gangsters according to Templeton, see earlier blog entry]. Most of the people who will be discussed in this paper come from the merchant stock; they or their immediate forefathers worked for a living for at least some part of their lives. This history of work led new Italian nobles of the late Middle Ages and Renaissance to feel somewhat illegitimate. These feelings of illegitimacy were manifested in the perceived need to proclaim their status whenever possible. These feelings gave rise to the ostentatious fashions...
Aha, you say, I know those people, they are all around me in the modern gossip magazine, with also some efforts just to have fun. But underneath all, the desire to be sumptuous. Or cheerfully ludicrous.

We have, at minimum, subconscious rules about where people should wear such.

It is possible to observe class differences (real or imagined) in assessing those photos from this link.  ... acceptable on a racecourse in spring, in Australia.

People write to TripAdvisor asking what is the dress code for Italy in April. To which the reply generally is "there is none, but be respectful in churches, some have rules."

Morality and politics come into play in modern times too.  As these images indicate: